Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Drunken Immortals

I’m up far too late, but the day has been full. Dixie, our Jack Russell, came down with the same tell-tale cough that’s been haunting Archie, and today, she was blessed with a visit to the vet. Neither of the dogs is ill enough to mope around the house, but both are, it seems, contagious. Hence the dogs, alas, have been wandering around home, honing their skills at time-vampirism. They have cuteness and high-pitched whines working for them. Thank goodness none of the large advertising firms has thought to market such attention-getting techniques.

This morning, as the puppies cavorted around the back yard chewing on fresh sticks and burrowing fresh holes into the ground, I read a poem by Browning. Now which Browning do you suppose I mean?

In my head, use of the surname alone summons up Robert and his masterful use of persona poems. I’d like to claim that this is simply because Mr. Browning is the superior poet—and to my mind, he is. However, I suspect the root of such supposition is something slightly more insidious.

After dipping into Mr. Browning’s work for a few minutes, I decided—despite the rationale against such endeavors—to try my hand at a poem. You see, I had this dream…and already the poem seems hokey.

Nevertheless, the dream was—in its own way—about an old friend that I haven’t seen since my wedding. At times, I miss him horribly…in the way that you can only miss a dear friend. I miss having him near for over-intellectualized conversations about the nature of the relations between the sexes. I miss the erratic games of chess that turned, inevitably, on that single idiotic move that I made when my concentration lapsed. I miss the languid discussions of esoteric music that seemed to spiral late into evening well past two or three drinks.

Yet, when I wrote the poem, using the tried and true “I/you” formula, I simply couldn’t pull off the damn thing. In my lexicon of poetry, there seems to be a gap in describing one of the simplest and most valuable forms of love: friendship.

Ah, I’ll try again….and again….until it doesn’t sound as though the speaker is male and the “you” is female or vice versa. At least, that’s how my wife tells me it sounds. Granted, I think that I could add distinguishing features, like facial hair or size-13 shoes, but would it still read like a “love” poem, and if so, why?

Perhaps friendship between men is something that—excepting tragic circumstances ala Brian’s Song—simply doesn’t merit the kind of quiet contemplation a poem engenders. Perhaps, the concept, in Western poetry has simply been submerged in the deluge of love poems and “romantic” fixation that seems somehow integral to our culture. Then again, maybe I’ve just missed the examples.

For now, I know that I can hunt down the poems of Tu Fu and Li Po—great Chinese masters whose distinctly “modern” poems were first inscribed long before the first clumsy Anglo-Saxon forays into written verse. They provide an example.

And until I figure out the angle that will make such a poem read as I’d like it to be read, I’ll simply follow the arc the poems take, ignoring the inspiration, and shaping them into myriad love poems. Of course, for the sake of those poems, I think I’ll be re-reading Mrs. Browning, too.


Post a Comment

<< Home